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If God controls the nations….

21 Dec

2 Chron 20:5-6  Jehoshaphat stood before the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the Lord’s temple, in front of the new courtyard. He prayed: “O Lord God of our ancestors, you are the God who lives in heaven and rules over all the kingdoms of the nations. You possess strength and power; no one can stand against you.

Biblical Christians accept, without pause, the fact that God controls nations.  Numerous passages in the Bible teach this.  Consider just a smattering of examples:

  • The formation of the people of Israel, created by God from one Babylonian pagan, Abraham.
  • Or God sending Cyrus to capture and subjugate rebellious Judah.
  • Or arranging for Caesar Augustus to desire a census so that Mary & Joseph would travel to Jerusalem and Jesus would be born in Bethlehem instead of Nazareth

So, my thought is this:

If God controls the nations, then He also controls individual people and events.

How else do nations run, if not by very little details!

This past year I read David McCullough’s historical account of the Panama Canal.

God worked mosquitos, personality traits of leaders, weather, and human sin all together to bring America to the point to successfully take over the construction of the canal from the French.  When the French began construction in 1881 of this, their second significant canal after the Suez Canal, no one in Washington, DC even dreamed that America would complete this project.

But there were many details that God sovereignly organized into one surprising result.

Even the non-Christian deist Benjamin Franklin recognized the ‘butterfly effect’ and memorialized it with this rhyme:

“For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.”

Christians more easily recognize that God is the source of all these details, but where we (ME!!) fail is in applying this FACT to the personal details of our lives.  What great peace I forfeit when I fail to remember that God is in fact lovingly directing all occurrences according to His GOOD purposes.  This includes those details/events:

  • that others mean for evil (just consider Judas’ betrayal of Jesus)
  • natural disasters like earthquakes and droughts due to the Fall (‘all of creation groans in pain ‘ – Romans 8:22)

This logical gal is going to remind herself daily:

  • If God controls the nations, then He is controlling the details of my life right now.
  • If God is God, then He is good.
  • Therefore, the good God controls the details of my life right now.

That’s enough for me.

Gospel logic

18 May

God is able to make all grace abound to you that always having all sufficiency in all things, you may have an abundance for every good work. 2 Cor 9:8

I sometimes struggle with feeling as though I have SUFFICIENT time to do what I want to do – read during a period of the day when I am most alert.

So anytime I hear mention of the concepts of ENOUGH or SATISFACTION, which both can be described as contentment with the current supply, my ears perk up.

The other day, I was thinking about how  I might logically frame my feeling of sufficiency. Here is an initial attempt:

Premise 1: If I have all sufficiency in money, time and health, I am content

Premise 2: God has said that He is able to provide me with complete sufficiency

Conclusion: I should be content because I have access to my sufficiency by asking Him regularly for what I need

If the above reasoning is true, then why might I still struggle with a sense of lack or not enough?

Immediately the Holy Spirit reminded me of the PURPOSE for which God promises to provide me sufficiency.  Not primarily (so it might seem) simply to please myself, but instead to do the work that HE has planned for me to undertake.  In Ephesians, Paul reminds us that we are raised from the walking dead to being alive in Christ to undertake and carry out the works that God has planned for us.

For we are His workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10

(an aside, the Greek word for workmanship is poiema which some have rendered as ‘poetry’)

Okay – so when God gives us grace that translates into sufficiency, He says that it is not for our good pleasure (my reading), but to do the work that He has pre-ordained for us.

Hmm…is that disappointing?  Well, ça dépend! (that depends, as the French say).

Jesus said: My food/meat is to do the will of God who sent me and to accomplish His work – John 4:34  And food is the Greek word broma which means:

  • aliment which refreshes, delights or truly satisfies the mind

It seems that God is VERY efficient.  He has so created work both to accomplish His purposes AND to refresh me. I can be assured that looking to God the Father for what will ultimately satisfy me involves letting HIM assign and organize the work I am to do.

Left to please myself, I might think what I crave for restoration are the time and energy to READ.  But I am beginning to see that maybe I am not wise enough as the created being to know what is best for me.

I’m slowly learning to depend on my Maker to know what kind of high-grade octane nurtures, protects and optimizes my spiritual engine.

high octane

Sobering logic

30 Mar

 

Alfie

What’s it all about, Alfie? You know what I mean,” so commented with subdued irony the Michael Caine character in the 1966 British film, “Alfie”.  A very important thought, maybe this was first time that Alfie had looked beyond the present moment to something more than pleasing himself.

Most human beings, unlike other mammals, DO ask the big questions of life.  Rightly so, for these issues are not whimsical ponderings, but life-altering in their implications and answers.

I haven’t seen the movie, but reading the synopsis of it see this link, gave me a sense of the emptiness of Alfie’s (Alfred) life of womanizing.  I thought about the movie and how people either do or don’t take seriously the metaphysical and very serious matters confronting each of us.

The most important choice any human must make can be framed this way as a conditional major premise:

  • If we have lived attached to Jesus Christ in this life, then we will live together with Christ in the next life (which lasts forever)
The converse is true: 
  • If we have NOT lived attached to Christ in this life, then we will NOT live with Christ in the next life (which lasts forever)

Reality is, a decision must be made in this life.  There is no karma, no second chances once we die.  There are only two paths, one with Christ and one without.

These facts are not my opinions; they come from Jesus himself.  He is the one who declared:

  •  “I am THE way, the truth and the light.” John 14:6a

So think deeply, dear logical Joe and Jane.  As pastor and teacher Dr. R. C. Sproul counsels, ‘This moment counts forever’.

2 roads

 

The logic of assurance of faith

9 Mar

If you are a Christian, do you struggle with knowing for sure that all the promises of Christ are actually for you?  That you will be eternally with God when you die?  That you won’t have to face judgment, followed by sentencing for your crimes against the Creator and Sustainer God of the universe?

Assurance of salvation

There’s actually a logical way, I think, to know for sure whether you are IN Christ and under no condemnation from God the Father or excluded from Christ’s saving work on your behalf.

As I was thinking about this topic the other morning (prompted by reading from Puritan William Gurnall’s work on the armor of God) I mused about the state of our spiritual health before my husband and I actually became Christians.

Until the age of 22, we had NO doubt that we were Christian.  The topic never came up.  We were baptized, confirmed members of the Episcopal Church.  That denomination’s current (or at least de facto) doctrine teaches that all those who are baptized are in fact Christians. End of discussion. Period.

But once we heard the ‘bad news’ of our natural state (“all have sinned and fall short of God’s standard….and deserve death” – combo of Romans 3:23 and Romans 6:23), we grasped with haste the ‘good news’ of Jesus’ atonement and fulfilling of the Law on behalf of those who will receive it by faith.

That’s when occasional doubts about our actual salvation began to jab at our assurance of pardon and peace. Those fears bothered us! The very fact of our DIS-stress over our eternal future is likely a healthy clue and evidence to the saving faith we actually possess.

But over the years, I’ve come to see how clear thinking and a logical hypothetical true statement can bolster my confidence that what Jesus has done actually DOES apply to me.

Ephesians 2:8 teaches Christians that only by a GIFT have we been saved from God’s rightful wrath. (For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God)

Gift of faith

By a gift, not by baptism, or confirmation or any work done by a religious person or us!

When I start to second-guess myself, I am tempted to imagine or hypothesize….

  • What if I believe this fact (that I’ve received the Gift) TODAY, but tomorrow I DON’T believe?  How do I know that I TRULY believe?  Maybe I’m fooling myself?

But with the temptation, the Holy Spirit reminds me of  Gospel logic so I can plug that hole in the dike holding back false fears and guarding that precious gift faith.

Here’s my pre-supposition based on Paul’s teaching in Acts:

“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” Acts 16:31

The Bible defines this kind of faith or  ‘belief’ as relying on/counting on/ trusting in.

Premise 1: Either I am relying on my own merit and works to be righteous enough to please God OR I’m relying on Jesus’ work for me to please God

Premise 2: I’m not relying on myself to please God

Conclusion: Therefore, I’m relying on Jesus’ work offered to me to please God

It’s as simple as that.  I have to keep asking myself this fundamental question:

  • Maria, who are you trusting in, you or Jesus.

That’s usually enough to quiet the doubts.  What about you?

 

 

 

 

 

Logical Gal’s 37 billion dollar debt and the If…then argument

29 Jul

Debt - $37 billion

Romans 8:32  He that did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not also give us all things with him?

I was trying to put a number on an impossible debt I might owe – one in which I had absolutely NO hope of coming close to paying off.  I arbitrarily picked 37 billion dollars because it sounded….unreal!

Now what if I added to that monetary obligation the imminent threat of execution should I NOT come up with the money by a certain deadline?

With that sentence hanging over me every waking moment, how could I ever take pleasure in the sound of birds, or a breathtaking sunset or the smell of newly mown grass?  Who could enjoy ANYthing, knowing that sure and certain death was drawing closer?

Rain cloud

The apostle Paul argues from the greater to the lesser when he places ‘front and center’ God’s gift to us of Jesus’ death in lieu of ours to pay our un-payable debt. For each breath we draw and live in rebellion to our holy creator God increases our guilt.

So imagine WITH ME the freedom we should feel knowing for a fact that THIS sentence has been carried out already and we are literally OFF the hook and on good terms with our Creator God.

What could hang over us more serious than that already settled debt? Why in light of that load having been lifted, wouldn’t we have a different perspective about all other problems?  Wouldn’t all other setbacks, frustrations and disappointments fall into an entirely DIFFERENT category?  Wouldn’t we find it natural to remember, to relax and then to rejoice at all times when encountering trials?   No longer having to fear the worst, wouldn’t we be able to bear up under the lesser pains of life?  What would we recall when:

  • we run short on money for this month’s bills?  That the God who has already done the ‘impossible’ promises to provide.
  • we face a relationship gone sour? That God will either heal it, change US or comfort us.
  • ‘the right job’ never materializes? That there is likely SOME work to be had that will cover the bills and benefit others.
  • that chronic sin pattern or health problem or, or, or? That we are to turn our thoughts back to Him and quiet our minds in God. That our worst imaginable nightmare has been taken care of.  That He alone has the omniscient knowledge, kind wisdom and infinite power to do what is best for us.

I’m finding as I face disappointments that range from minor to more painful that when I remind myself of the logic of God having taken care of my BIGGEST need, (which by the way cost Him the MOST), I relax in the logic of the holy and faithful nature of the One of whom Paul argues ‘How can He not also take care of……?’

If God takes care of my most serious problem, then He will take care of my lesser problems

God has removed my unpayable debt against Him that meant a one-way ticket to Hell

Therefore, God will give me what I need for this lesser problem

Logical gal – new insight into Bible verse via French translation and a hypothetical syllogisme

1 Jul

Grace was given to you, regarding Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him. Phil 1:29

Caught off guard, I reread this morning’s devotional in the French (from a French Bible meditation-a-day calendar by La Bonne Semence – Website is here).  Why had I never seen that before?

Paul was explaining that faith to believe Jesus is a gift just like the power to endure suffering is a gift.

Two gifts; same grace; 2 different purposes:

  1. Power to believe Jesus is God
  2. Power to go through suffering

Grace

Doing a little digging, I discovered why I had never before ‘seen’ the connection to grace, to a gift from God.  Many of the English translations say something like the ESV – For to you it has been granted…...

My mind had just skipped over those words and lingered on my discomfort with the linkage between believing and suffering. I confess an unhealthy FEAR of future suffering.  So I have both pondered and shuddered at the latter portion of that statement.

Applying some clear thinking it was fairly easy to draw out some principles from this now illumined verse:

  • Both true belief and the power to endure suffering are possible only with God
  • By definition grace is a gift
  • God grants grace as a gift to Christians
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot see or rely on the Biblical Jesus
  • Without supernatural grace, we cannot make it through suffering the way God has intended it

These inferences immediately eased my unholy fears.  Here’s how I applied them to all the ‘what-ifs’ that swirl around in my head more times than I’d like to admit.

When I imagine a scenario, like a fatal car accident affecting a family member, I realize my lack of control. And there is nowhere to go with the fear. So it hovers. Blocks sleep at night and robs me of peace during the day.

Fear - stories

What I now see, thanks to God using this French translation (and the Greek supports it!), is that the imagined fears all take place outside of any grace that God provides.  The suffering I’m picturing is set against the backdrop of ME and my capabilities.  Of course, when I look at me, I am discouraged.   But Christians aren’t meant to live relying on their puny resources. Christians, once God re-births them, get a spiritual DNA.  (think: new supernatural power)

  • Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.        2 Cor 5:17

As my cousin Terry counsels, ‘Don’t step out of your circle of Grace.’  She’s talking about ‘daily bread’.  God gives us what we need AS we need it. That’s what He promises.  He doesn’t provide the ‘feeling’ of grace in the present for a potential future situation.

Bottom line, logically-speaking?   It’s STUPID to meditate on possible suffering.

So what will I do when another IRRATIONAL fear pops unbidden into my mind?  Remind myself of truth, that God has promised future grace when I need it.  For now, I will live in the present moment, relying on these facts that:

  • just as it takes a gift or grace to receive faith and believe
  • so, too, it takes a gift or grace to receive power and suffer in the manner He has planned

Here’s the if-then version of that truth:

  • Premise 1 – If God has given me faith to believe that Jesus is who He says He is, then God will give me power and grace for suffering as it comes.
  • Premise 2 – God HAS given me faith, right now, to believe and rely on Him
  • Conclusion – Therefore, He will most assuredly give me grace and power for suffering when it occurs.

Question: Where have clear thinking and logic helped you mine truth from the Bible?

Logical Gal at the movies

13 Aug

AI the movie

We’re enjoying re-watching some ‘thinking’ movies from the past.  Once you’ve screened a film for the plot line, you can go back and catch the deeper layers. AI or Artificial Intelligence has some dialogue worth pondering.

David is a proto-type robot child who is programmed to ‘love’ after a bonding sequence his ‘Mommy’ (human who owns him) initiates and follows. He responds to her eyes, voice and actions with uncanny human-like qualities that mimic true affection.

In one scene David  is challenged by the family’s REAL son to cut off a locket of Mommy’s hair.  The guile-filled biological boy frames it as a game and orders David to play. We follow the innocent David sneaking into the parents’ bedroom, scissors in hand.  The suspense builds to the predictable moment when Mommy wakes up in horror to see David with sharp edges in hand hovering over her face.   But in momma-bear mode,  she attempts to soft-pedal the event when the horrified dad comes out with this logic:

If he can love, then he can hate!

And after one more innocent event that casts David in a false light, the dad makes the decision to rid themselves of this too-advanced tech addition to their family.

*

Let’s practice some clear logical thinking by taking the dad’s announcement above and analyzing it.  This exercise will reenforce what we should do ANY time we encounter someone’s position which doesn’t seem quite right.

So what do we have in the dad’s pronouncement?

  • a conditional major premise, what we call an ‘If, then’ statement.
  • an enthymeme – one explicit part of an argument or syllogism and 2 missing parts that our minds fill in easily.

Here’s the completed argument:

Premise 1 (the major premise):  If David can love, then he can hate

Premise 2 (the minor premise): David has shown that he can love

Conclusion: Therefore, it is logical to believe that David is also capable of hating

There’s a law in logic that goes like this:  if the first 2 premises are true, then the conclusion MUST be true in a valid argument (valid means that the argument is in the correct form) 

The above syllogism IS valid because Premise 2 affirms the first segment of Premise 1 (called the antecedent). I ask you, then, is this analysis cut and dried?  Are the two premises true?

Well, the movie clearly demonstrates that David loves.  He is a machine.  He is programmed and built to act lovingly and to have that love increase (grow) in response to his one human ‘bondee’ (one human who initiates a short programmed sequence of words enters into a ‘bonded-for-life’ connection with the ‘mecha’ i.e, the robot).  In the photo below, Mommy places the fingers of one hand behind David’s neck and reads a sequence of words, cementing the bonding.

Bonding between David and Monica in movie AI

But the error in Premise 1 lies in its presupposition.  The dad has humans in mind when he assumes that love and hate go hand in hand.  And for those created in God’s images, id est all of us, that is true.  We have been given a certain degree of free will.  We GIVE our love and we RETAIN or hold back our love.  Or else it is not true love. (What a risk God took! But He evidently WANTS the pinnacle of His creation to love Him freely). The downside in creating a machine that imitates a loving human is that the owner of the ‘mecha’ deceives himself in thinking the machine really DOES love him. If he stops and THINKS, the machine is merely following a program, however complex it may be.

David loves Mommy, acts and speaks with tender, servant-like affection because he can do nothing else.  This is not true of humans.

*

Let’s shift back to real life.  Deep movies are satisfying because they offer us food for thought.  We can practice our logic skills in a safe environment when we discuss a film’s premises and conclusions.  Then we feel more prepared gently to question someone in our circle who advances a conclusion that might not be sound.

Vive le cinéma profond!

Question:  What is your all-time favorite deep movie?  What is a premise we could analyze?